Saturday, November 30, 2013

In Our Time (1944)

If you follow this blog at all you will notice that I like watching films that were made during World War II. I like seeing all the patriotism (to a certain extent because sometimes it can get too preachy) and how Hollywood answered the call to inspire moviegoers and showed men and women in action. It was a great time for women they came out of the homes to work in factories or join auxiliary groups of the various war departments (I think it’s time for Hollywood to write either a movie or a show about women who served during the war. I am dying to write one). I also like seeing how the studios made films dealing with war in Europe. So many actors throughout the various studios were from Europe so they used to tell the European side of the conflict. The 1944 film In Our Time is one of several films that tells the conflict from a European civilian’s point of view.
            Jennifer Whitteredge (Ida Lupino) goes to Poland with her employer Mrs. Bromley (Mary Boland) to look for antiques. Their train is stopped in the middle of nowhere to let a group of Nazis on board. At the antique store in Poland Mrs. Bromley and the owner go upstairs to see more items and leave Jennifer downstairs by herself to watch the store. A man comes in wanting a watch. He thinks she works in the store. They have a discussion about a song from a music box. It is a song by Chopin the great Polish composer. Jennifer proves the man wrong by playing the two songs on the piano. The man likes Jennifer he asks her to go to the ballet with him. She tells him she cannot go. Mrs. Bromley and the owner come downstairs. The owner tells Jennifer the man is Count Stefan Orwid (Paul Henreid). She gets Mrs. Bromley to go to the ballet.
            For the entire ballet Stefan and Jennifer have only eyes for each other. He is there with his family and they all notice he is not watching what is happening on stage. After the ballet Stefan takes Jennifer for a walk around the town. When they come to the statue of Chopin Jennifer tells Stefan she is leaving for England the following day. On the day Jennifer is to leave Stefan proposes to her. She agrees and leaves Mrs. Bromley to travel back to England by herself. Stefan bring Jennifer to meet his family. When they arrive at the house Stefan’s uncle Leopold is listening to the radio about the Nazis invading the surrounding countries. He believes Poland will be next. Stefan does not let Jennifer get a word in edgewise. He lies to his family about where they met. His mother and sister do not approve of his marrying Jennifer. His other uncle is a Nazis and he does not approve whatsoever of the marriage. He makes Jennifer feel awful and she leaves. Stefan finds her at the train station. He tells her that he wants to make everything work. He wants her to help him make his own way he does not want his Nazis uncle to help him financially.
            They live at his family’s home. Stefan’s sister is nasty to Jennifer and his mother does not care for her. The only person on their side is Leopold. Stefan and Jennifer come up with the idea to modernize their estate by buying new equipment for their tenant farmers. His mother wants to throw a large party. Stefan tells her they cannot have the party they have to cut back on extravagances since they are not relying on the Nazis uncle. His sister feels her whole comfortable way of life is threatened and she is not happy at all.
            One day they try to teach the farmers how to use the new tractors. The farmers do not like the tractors at first. Stefan in frustration walks away. Jennifer tells him they have to try and not give up. She comes up with the idea for the farmers to use the equipment by telling them they will get a percentage of the harvest. Stefan and Jennifer hold a party for the farmers at their home to thank them for all their hard work. The Nazis uncle hears about the party. He feels Jennifer is destroying their tradition because she could not the money herself. That is not true at all she truly loves Stefan. The uncle tells his nephew that he must now be consulted on everything and if he is not told what is happening he will be (Stefan) will be cut off from the family.
            As the two men are talking they see lights flashing. They think it is thunder but when they go outside they see Warsaw is being bombed. Stefan’s regiment is immediately called up.
            Some time later Jennifer comes in from working in the fields with the farmers. While Stefan has been away fighting she has been keeping herself busy by helping. She looks exhausted and beaten. As Jennifer puts her stockings on the window sill she sees Stefan walking home. She runs downstairs and into Stefan’s arms. Soon after his mother, sister, and Leopold come home. Leopold had made passage for them to get to Monte Carlo. Stefan refuses to leave. He answers the mayor’s call to defend Warsaw until the end. He rallies the farmers to help.
            Stefan, Jennifer, and the farmers burn the house and fields to the ground as they leave.
            In Our Time is not very memorable but the performances are. Ida Lupino and Paul Henreid had great chemistry. Their characters were typical they did not really stand out too much. I liked the story except that it got drawn out in some parts and the scenes where Stefan’s aristocratic family does not approve of Jennifer were very clichéd. I did like the bit of a twist with Stefan’s one uncle being a Nazis, it was an interesting balance with the peaceful Leopold. I caught In Our Time on TCM a while ago. If the channel ever airs the film again get it a watch just for Ida Lupino and Paul Henreid.   

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